• Kyodo

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A 7-year-old boy found dead Thursday in Akita Prefecture was probably strangled soon after being taken away in an automobile, investigative sources said.

An autopsy found two indications of strangulation on the boy’s neck, suggesting the killer apparently harbored a strong intent to kill him and either wrapped a rope twice around his neck or strangled him twice, the sources said Saturday.

Police have found multiple footprints and tire tracks near the abandoned body of Goken Yoneyama, a first-grader in the town of Fujisato, Akita Prefecture, and were analyzing the samples to see if any can be connected to a suspect.

Yoneyama was found dead in grass just beyond a rope that divides the grass and a road along a riverbank in the city of Noshiro. Many of the footprints were found just below the rope, the sources said.

The boy was found in the same clothes and shoes he was wearing when he disappeared, and his school cap and backpack were found nearby.

The police believe the circumstances under which his body and belongings were found indicate the perpetrator abandoned the body so it could be found fairly easily.

In April, a 9-year-old female schoolmate who lived near Yoneyama was found dead in a river several kilometers from where his body was found.

The police initially determined the cause of the girl’s death as an accidental drowning but are now looking into whether the two cases are linked.